When he began talking about the arrest of Nikki Stone July 28, Mayor de Blasio pointed out that the Warrant Squad Detectives who took her into custody were doing what they were supposed to: arresting someone who had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court.
Then he went sideways by lamenting the spectacle that had been created by her arrest, and the fact that it involved cops in plainclothes grabbing her and pulling her into an unmarked van. It looked a bit too much, the Mayor suggested, like what had been going on in Portland, where personnel from various Federal law-enforcement agencies had been snatching protesters of the street without cause and spirited them away from the scene, before eventually turning them loose.
One of the prime criticisms of those tactics by employees acting at the behest of President Trump is that they have been outfitted in camouflage fatigues, with no traces of either their identities or the agencies for which they work. Another is the civil-liberties issue of taking someone into custody when they haven't done anything wrong besides being at a protest.
But that wasn't the case here. Ms. Stone was originally arrested for disabling an NYPD security camera near City Hall by splashing it with orange paint, along with other graffiti-related crimes. And while defacing a building is not something that should be casually dismissed, rendering ineffective cameras that are installed to help detect crimes or identify possible suspects is a heavy-duty offense, no matter that the person committing it is a teenager.
And while Mayor de Blasio was not the only public official focusing not on the merits of the arrest but how it looked—Governor Cuomo called it "obnoxious"—he had more reason than others to not act as if Ms. Stone or the protesters who were with her on the street at the time she was taken into custody deserved an apology for the way in which it was handled.
He initially contended that he was not faulting the arresting officers but rather NYPD brass for allowing it to occur in the middle of a protest. But if the Mayor were capable of being intellectually honest about policing matters at this point in time, he would have instead made clear why alarms that this was an illicit operation straight out of the Portland playbook were unfounded.
Any uncertainty about who was involved in the arrest should have been cleared up when a large contingent of officers clearly identifiable as NYPD personnel moved in with bicycles to ward off any protesters looking to interfere with the Warrant Squad Detectives and the van. It should have been easy for the Mayor to point that out, and to state that they had legitimate grounds to move in that way.
As to the issue of why the cops couldn't have waited until the protest broke up, according to Chief of Department Terence Monahan, they had Ms. Stone under observation for half an hour prior to the arrest but held off acting to avoid that kind of scene. Their hands were forced, he contended, when Ms. Stone marched over to where the officers were "and starts cursing 'em out...and starts calling other protesters over."
Given that Mr. de Blasio is the person who signed off on Chief Monahan being given the NYPD's top uniformed position, he's supposed to give him the benefit of the doubt as to that account until proven otherwise. And it's hardly unusual for teenagers to create a mess by acting contrary to their best interests.
When Ms. Stone was released not long afterwards, she returned to her colleagues smiling and with her fist in the air—not the look of someone who'd endured a stationhouse grilling.
So it should be clear that this was much ado about nothing that couldn't be easily explained, if Mr. de Blasio had opted to take that route. Instead he left the Warrant Squad Detectives—as well as top police commanders hanging for this incident, which is likely to further harm morale.
Detectives' Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said in a statement, "A society that makes enemies of its police had better learn to make friends with its criminals."
What's particularly perplexing is Mr. de Blasio's insensitivity. He is facing heat from Teachers who worry about being sent back into schools a month from now without certainty that appropriate safeguards will have been taken to limit their risks of contracting the coronavirus. Cops have reported for work for more than four months with that danger hanging over them. More than 7,000 were sidelined with the disease. At least a half-dozen of them—five of them members of the DEA—died of it.
Yet they still show up—and place themselves in close proximity with protesters, as well as criminals, who are not always wearing masks—while having their work complicated by wrongheaded actions initiated by the City Council and signed into law by the Mayor.
It would be hard to blame them if they concluded that in their case, being called "essential workers" meant they were people who catch the flak when something goes wrong—or just looks that way.
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